Infant Sleep Positioners Responsible for Several Suffocation Deaths

Learn how to help your baby sleep safe with some tips from a Scott & White pediatrician

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued a warning to consumers after reviewing the reports of 12 known infant deaths related to infant sleep positioners.

It seems the products that claim to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and alleviate symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) have actually been linked to several suffocation deaths in infants.

“There have been no studies showing that it’s effective to use any kind of positioner,” said Scott & White pediatrician Matthew B. Bierwirth, MD. “Those are just kind of a marketing gadget that people use to try to make some money.”

The devices that are usually made up of a thin mat and wedges are used to prevent an infant from moving while sleeping or to elevate the baby’s head. However, in the reported instances of injury, the child has been found in unsafe positions within or near the product.

“The truth is that there is no gadget or device that can help decrease the instance of SIDS,” Dr. Bierwirth said. “The safest place for a baby is on their back.”

The FDA calls it the ABC’s of safe sleep—Alone on the Back in a bare Crib.


As a result of the injuries and deaths related to these products, the FDA is now requiring manufacturers of these devices to submit data showing the products’ benefits outweigh the risks. They’ve also asked these same manufacturers to stop marketing their products until they can review the information.

If your child has sustained injuries due to one of these devices, report the incident to the Consumer Product Safety Commission by visiting www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/incident.aspx or FDA’s MedWatch program or by calling 800-638-2772.

Ways to Practice Safe Infant Sleep

  • Do not use infant positioning products.
  • Never put pillows, sleep positioners, comforters, or quilts under the baby or in the crib.
  • Always place a baby on his or her back at night or during nap time.
  • Dress your baby comfortably in loose fitting clothes. During cold months, dress your baby in a body suit, but do not add extra cushioning or bedding to your child’s crib.

Sleeping Myths

Myth: My baby will choke if I lay him/her on their back.

Truth: Spitting up while lying on their back will not cause a child to choke.

Myth: I turn my baby over at night because she keeps rolling onto her stomach.

Truth: Most babies start rolling between four and six months. But if you have a baby that starts rolling early, you don’t have to continue turning them over. They will sleep in a way that is most comfortable to them.

Information courtesy of Dr. Bierwirth.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Infant Sleep Positioners Responsible for Several Suffocation Deaths